I have been in love with Star Wars from the get-go.
As someone constantly made fun of as a kid on the playground for being "the Star Wars girl," I have never cheered louder than when in The Force Awakens, Anakin's lightsaber bypasses problematic Disney prince Kylo Ren and flies into the hands of Rey.
And then The Last Jedi happened.
There was a strong backlash to the fall of Luke Skywalker. The same man who looked for light even in Darth Vader, was suddenly ready to kill his own nephew because he was being tempted by the Dark Side.
And now Solo: A Star Wars Story is happening with one of its key characters seemingly pushed into pansexual territory.
What happened to our heroes?!
Luke Skywalker once represented some of the best of humanity. George Lucas based the saga of the Skywalkers on Joseph Campbell's idea of the monomyth. In short, humans have created the same sort of stories globally throughout existence because it speaks to a deeper, primal need to express hope in our endless barrage of crazy lives.
Stop me if you've heard this one: a young orphan (or someone from a broken family) suddenly discovers something strange and new about themselves. They inherit some sort of magical "thing" – usually from a family member, but not always – and are guided by a saintly elderly figure through a series of trials and tribulations. There are challenges to be met, dragons slain, Princesses rescued, magic rings discovered, and great evil uncovered and defeated. For thousands of years, and for cultures with no connection to each other, these stories were enough to satisfy this push towards greater goodness in their heroes, and by proxy, themselves.
And this is where we come to the problem with the new Star Wars movies – specifically The Last Jedi and this new outing, Solo: A Star Wars Story. What's interesting is that the very changes people are decrying come from a Biblical background.
Christians – in fact all humans – are capable of discernment, knowing right from wrong. Christians are called and equipped to see evil and good for what they are. That's why powerfully good figures resound with us, and why we are drawn to heroes and their journeys and their victories. There is something innate within our very souls that seeks righteousness and goodness.
This is among the reasons stories of Luke Skywalker, King Arthur, Lucy Pevensie, Frodo Baggins, and others are so moving. These tales stay with us, and shape us.
However, today we're being thrown into stories where we dare see the villains as heroes. Don't get me wrong, I adore a well-crafted villain. Lucifer from John Milton's Paradise Lost is astoundingly written. But Milton never wanted his readers to view Lucifer as better than Adam, Eve, Michael, Abdiel, or even Jesus. Lucifer could be sympathetic and compelling, but he was never presented as being in the right.
Luke Skywalker ultimately regrets what he did to Ben Solo, but he tries to force (no pun intended) Rey to see there is no hope left in the Universe, that the Jedi must be destroyed, and that Kylo Ren can never be Ben Solo again. Understandably, there was a major backlash against The Last Jedi and a good bit of it comes from fans feeling Luke Skywalker's noble character was assassinated.
If every person is able to discern good from evil, and seek to find good ultimately in themselves (which we can see from the popularity of these stories), then it's only natural for people to rebel against the idea of taking one of their cherished heroes and turning him into a depressed hermit willing to let hope and even his twin sister die.
The problem is, we're seeing more and more of these narratives emerging in contemporary media. The current backlash against the outing of Lando Calrissian's sexuality in Solo from parents outraged that their children are witnessing a beloved character suddenly turned into a hyper sexualized being heralds a greater push against stories where our heroes are ripped away from their goodness just for the sake of being...I don't know...novel.
But we don't want that novel narrative. We want our heroes to be heroes! We don't want Luke to nearly kill his own family before giving up on hope altogether. We don't want Captain America being a secret Hydra agent in the comics.
We want to seek the good in the world, and in ourselves.
"Woe to those," Isaiah writes, "who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!" (Isaiah 5:20). That is exactly what is happening in stories today – even in Star Wars. We're seeing a pull away from the classic virtues of Luke, Leia, and even Han Solo. Yet there is something within us that sees this and hates it. It speaks to the inner Christian in all of us that seeks this higher power and this greater good.
So if you're intending to go see Solo, by all means have fun. But be aware that the characters you see on screen could be so much better – the heroes they once were. Seek out stories that affirm, rather than destroy, the innate goodness that speaks to our very souls.